Port and Corps Conclude “No Environmental Impacts” from Dredging Mobile Bay
In June 2014, the Alabama State Port Authority (the Port) submitted a request to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) to consider dredging the Mobile Harbor Ship Channel. This project would deepen and widen the Channel to allow larger ships to pass through more quickly. This dredging includes 1) deepening the Bar, Bay, and River Channels by 5 to 52 feet; 2) incorporating bend easings in the Bar Channel; 3) widening the Bay Channel by 400 to 500 feet; and 4) expanding the Choctaw Pass Turning Basin by 250 feet to the south.
The Corps and and the Port have published a Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement (SEIS) to understand the environmental impact of the project. The SEIS determines the current status of the environment and compares it with the environmental impacts that the project would cause, along with possible alternatives. Its purpose is to help the Corps and the Port determine how to mitigate any damages caused by the dredging.
Unfortunately, the study concludes there will be “no impacts” from this immense development.
After speaking with local experts and community members, and doing our own research, we at Mobile Baykeeper believe the Corps and the Port are underestimating the project’s impacts to our natural resources. The dredging will in fact significantly affect Mobile Bay, surrounding communities, property values, and economies that depend on clean water, such as fishing and tourism.
Deepening and widening the ship channel would impact our water quality, shorelines, wetlands, seagrasses, air quality, and commercial and recreational fish and shellfish. Changing the hydrology of the bay would extend saltwater boundaries, which means freshwater wetlands could die. The increased salinity would impact oysters, fish, and more. With larger ships comes a deeper draft, which increases shoreline erosion. It also sucks oyster larvae into the system and flushes them out. Larger and more frequent passing ships would decrease our air quality, particularly in low-income communities, due to truck traffic. Dredging itself negatively affects water quality, resulting in fish kills and muddier water, which kills seagrasses and the marine life that depends on them. The disposal of dredge material can also damage locations where it is dumped.
We understand the economic value of the Port to Alabama. Performing comprehensive studies and developing a plan for port expansion that also considers the value of the tourism industry, fisheries, and our quality of life will ensure we grow responsibly.
Mobile Baykeeper has been providing recommendations and expressing concerns from our research and conversations with our members and experts. Click here to learn more about our research and click here to submit a comment or fill out the form below.